I’ll Have the Iced Tea, Please
By Patrick F. Cannon
I met Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle the other night when we were both guests on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight. She was there to talk about the Cook County budget and I was being interviewed about my book, The Space Within. She was on first, but while she was waiting, her staff rehearsed her in some of the questions that interviewer Carol Marin was likely to ask her. Quite a few of them were related to her proposed tax on soda and related drinks.
If it passes, people in Cook County will pay a tax of one cent per ounce on carbonated soft drinks and other bottled and canned drinks, except water and pure fruit juices. Being a mathematical wizard has permitted me to tell you that it means an additional $2.88 on a case of Coke. At current levels of consumption, the County will rake in $74 million or so. Along with a similar amount in budget cuts, this will just about balance the budget.
In her questioning, Marin suggested that the tax might affect the poor more than anyone else. Fortuitously, President Preckwinkle was armed with a recent statement from the World Health Organization (WHO) that strongly suggested taxing sugared drinks as a way of reducing the consumption of sugar and thus obesity (as a matter of information, diet drinks would be included in the county tax) . WHO’s diktat was heaven sent, in this case. As we know, politicians love to save people from themselves. Whether this will be the beginning of a cigarette-like trend that will eventually lead to a ban of Coke drinking in public places remains to be seen.
It’s true that the rich don’t worry much about stuff like this. Either their personal chef makes a home brew with rare ingredients and one of those soda machines, or they smuggle in expensive French Chateauneuf du Pop along with their Chateauneuf du Pape aboard their private jets.
Alas, if the soda tax is successful in reducing consumption, then the income from the tax will steadily decline, and the County Board will again have to begin looking elsewhere for income. I didn’t have time to share my ideas on other possible new taxes with Preckwinkle, but perhaps some of these will make their way to her.
I was appalled to discover that bicycle riders, those daredevils of the streets, get off scott free. They consider themselves immune from any traffic fees or laws. Yet, they increasingly clog our highways and byways, and have been favored with special lanes and other perks. While I don’t think little tykes should have to be licensed, I say when you’re 18, you buy a license just like the motorists who spend so much time avoiding you and cursing when you ignore stop signs and red lights.
Another group who don’t pay their fair share is the pedestrians. Their constant backing and forthing on our sidewalks eventually wears them down and out. Make them pay! To be fair, the tax should be related to their weight and shoe size. I’m sure a formula could be devised to accomplish this to everyone’s satisfaction. By the way, having to pay a “walking” tax whether you walk or not would encourage exercise, another fortuitous consequence of social engineering.
Finally, I think people who talk on their cell phones in public should be licensed. When I first noticed this phenomenon, I assumed I was sharing the streets with lunatics, whose numbers were increasing day by day. I soon discovered that they were people who couldn’t resist the urge to talk to somebody, anybody, during every waking moment. They are particularly annoying in enclosed places like El cars and buses. Make them pay, I say. Make them put up or shut up!
Copyright 2016, Patrick F. Cannon